It was reminiscent of Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism and lazy journalism.
There was an unsubstantiated claim, ostensibly for political reasons, by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the 2012 presidential campaign. He made headlines when he falsely claimed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney failed to pay his income taxes for 10 years.
More on Sen. Reid’s claims and questionable news reporting later, but first let’s consider the correlation between his claims and McCarthyism.
Joe McCarthy was a Senator from Wisconsin for 10 years until 1957 — he was the image of the fight against Communism during the Cold War.
Fear was rampant. Americans were building underground bomb shelters and swept a former World War II hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower, into the White House largely for his leadership against the Communist threat.
Sen. McCarthy made headlines with wild, unsubstantiated claims – he claimed that Communist spies and sympathizers had infiltrated the federal government, the Truman Administration, the U.S. Army and Voice of America.
The press widely reported his reckless accusations.
It took a legendary television-news pioneer, Edward R. Murrow, to finally get to the truth. Mr. Murrow’s news reports challenging the veracity of Sen. McCarthy’s demagoguery influenced the Senate to censure Mr. McCarthy over his unproven, shocking claims.
Fast forward to 2012
Sen. Reid’s unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Romney’s taxes in a Huffington Post interview and repeated on the Senate floor were widely reported in the press. Sen. Reid said his information came from an “extremely credible source.”
He said he got a telephone tip from an investor in Bain Capital, Mr. Romney’s former firm.
“Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Mr. Reid admitted. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”
To be sure, it was a serious charge, but unproven. Other Democrats and Republicans, alike, have been guilty of such chicanery. Little wonder that polls show that voters are displeased with ineptness in Congress.
Hopefully, Sen. Reid’s accusation was nothing more than a risky gamble – that it didn’t alienate voters to stay away from the polls. Voters are always displeased about such sensational allegations without proof.
Mr. Romney released his estimated taxes for 2011 and his 2010 return. There was nothing illegal. By complying with the tax code, Mr. Romney paid a 13.9 percent tax rate in 2010.
The 2008 Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, only released two years of taxes – but he wasn’t hit with disingenuous demands for more tax returns.
For at least the last six decades, only one other presidential candidate (Donald Trump) had been subjected to such innuendo and character assassination about taxes. No Democrats since the Eisenhower years, including the wealthy John Kerry, have had to waste time and energy refuting such wild tax claims.
It’s not surprising that Mr. Romney didn’t open himself to more vicious publicity by not releasing more tax returns.
In view of such allegations in news headlines, one has to wonder about fairness: Why didn’t Sen. Reid release his tax returns, and why was the press so eager to give him a pass on his unproven allegations about Mr. Romney?
Where are the Edward R. Murrow-like journalists?
From the Coach’s Corner, is this a trend in media bias? Here’s another questionable event involving journalists: Lessons about Trust – 2 Deeply Disturbing Behaviors by Judges, Journalists in Wisconsin
“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”
-Edward R. Murrow